Rory McIlroy admits he made a meal of the 14th hole at Pebble Beach on Friday, but a superb fightback saw him salvage his round and stay in the hunt.
McIlroy shot his second consecutive round in the 60s, a two-under 69 following his opening 68, to lie just four shots off Gary Woodland’s 36-hole lead – although that doesn’t tell the full story of his round.
In reality, the Northern Irishman probably should have been a lot closer to the top, even if tied-fourth place is nothing to sneeze at.
McIlroy was enjoying serene progress, with three birdies and no bogeys to his name after his opening 12 holes, when he undid much of his good work by following up a dropped shot at the 13th with a double-bogey on the very next hole.
McIlroy’s course management really let him down at 14. A mishit wedge from 110 yards saw his ball come rolling down the front of the green, and then rather than take his medicine, he tried to play a fancy flop shot over a bunker and succeeded only in finding the bunker on the other side.
“I probably missed four or five yards right of where I needed to, and it came back down the hill, and then you’re in an awkward spot,” he said of his first mistake with a wedge in hand.
As for the flop shot that flopped?
“You’re trying to play a very precise shot to get it close to the hole to save your par, and that didn’t go to plan,” he said.
“It just sort of compounded the error with another error, which you never really want to do.
“To do all that hard work over the first 12 holes, and then to lose it in two holes, 13 and 14 was disappointing,” he admitted.
It’s a sign of McIlroy’s current level of form and confidence, however, that he was able to bounce back from that disaster with back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th.
They weren’t straightforward birdies either, and came courtesy of some superb shotmaking.
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“I bounced back well, he said.” I didn’t hit a great tee shot off 15, but the bunker shot turned everything around. It was nice to see a shot like that and roll the putt for birdie. And then it was sort of a bonus holing from the back of 16, as well.
And McIlroy knows exactly what it will take to win this weekend.
“Fairways, greens, it sounds boring, it sounds cliche but that’s what you need to do out here,” he said.
“Look, it’s not going to be easy over the weekend, you’re going to make bogeys, you’re going to make mistakes, it’s going to happen. And if I can keep responding to those mistakes like I did today I’ll be right there.”
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